Friday, January 14, 2011

Finally...A New Breed of Executive MBA Students Are Emerging!

Tonight, I once again had the privilege to play the role of VC in the Rockhurst Execuive MBA Program. The scenario was that I, along with five other VC's in the Kansas City community, got to play the role of a prospective investor in a mock venture capital presentation conducted by the students. Given my background of nearly 15 years of investment experience to include private equity, this exercise is not too difficult to do. I might even say it was enjoyable in this hypothetical world created for this exercise.

As expected, there was a high level of motivated talent in every investor presentation. Rockhurst's Executive MBA Program does a good job with attracting high quality students that have achieved success in their real world careers. But I was struck, and even somewhat surprised, by a few things this year compared to years past.
  • Presentation styles can vary as much as the people giving them. Some of the E-MBA students chose visual aids, some barely even had a graph inside their investment deck. Some emphasized their management experience, while other went straight to the heart of asking for the money. But as much as I would expect only slight variations from a predictable and safe investor pitch format, their individual styles varied greatly but all were pretty good. Really. Perhaps it is a reflection of making each presentation a reflection of the presenter, but seemingly (and finally) someone has told these students that you don't have to be a robot and follow one single model. And thank goodness Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 Power Point Rule seemed to be active in these students too.
  • The quality of the Executive MBA student seems to have really changed in this down economy. Sometimes you will find students who have decided to pursue an MBA with no clear path to their next career move. Maybe it is an attempt to delay the real world and extend the college experience. But this year I spoke to more smart, passionate and self-directed professionals than ever before, and I did not meet one candidate that I thought would have been better off keeping their money and not enrolling in this program. Call it the it a fluke...but I am glad to see that common sense-based people haven't become outlawed in the Missouri or Kansas region!
  • My hat is off Professor Al Hawkins, PhD, who facilitated tonight's program. Between his skill with students, but still calling it like he sees it, to his appreciation for the Socratic educational philosophy that allows students to really grow and develop real world skills, Al is a true professional in education.
I look forward to seeing how my mock investment worked out tomorrow, but in the meanwhile I finally got to renew my faith in the educational system. This country simply does not have the time to develop business and policy leaders on a part time basis. And if this new emerging group of soon to be Executive MBA graduates is what the future looks like, then we might have a fighting chance to create more new companies in even down markets!

Written by Herb Sih.

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